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The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 1-7-22 – 1-13-22, The Weeknd’s “Dawn FM” Reviewed

Eight years after Abel Tesfaye’s (aka The Weeknd) debut album, the sublime Kiss Land, The Weeknd dropped his fifth album and while it doesn’t peak as high as 2015’s Beauty Behind The Madness (“The Hills” is one of the best songs of the 21st century), it is more consistent. Like Taylor Swift, and unlike, say, Katy Perry, he knows how to use Max Martin, Swedish House Mafia, both in aid of synth pop hooks of a magnetic quality, and yet The Weeknd doesn’t disappear into the song at all. He takes his hooks, takes his songs, and nails them to an album as dawn fm dropped today.

Abel wrote an entire album during isolation due to the pandemic, and as a party monster it left him negative and upset to have his lifestyle crib deathed, which didn’t appear to be the emotion he should be evoking so… he made a concept album about listening to FM radio during an hour of transition, between planes of existence if you will.

True, the music is not anybody’s idea of FM radio. With comedian Jim Carrey doing the voiceover as the DJ soothing your way, the album is a mix of pure Abel and some artsier attacks. Built around banks of synthesizers and samples, and built around Abel’s light tenor, the songs are EDM arrested soul songs: he finds and loses love like Drake at the strip club. While there are some missteps, worst of all a bizarre spoken word interlude from Quincy Jones, “A Tale From Quincy,” about his mother being taken to a mental institution when he was seven years old, is beyond misplaced. And the entire wraparound seems besides the point, it holds the album loosely (looser than the nightclubbing After Hours) but the songs are so good, the performances ace the lot, and if nothing else getting Tyler The Creator, Mike Love’s son Christian Love, and legendary Beach Boy Bruce Johnston to sing back-up on the sets best song “Here We Go… Again”, Tyler’s verse is real good plus he gets the last word, “you gonna sign this prenup”.

At its worse there are a coupla dark r&b tracks you can skip, and missteps are made up for all over the place, whether the pure space age pop “Gasoline” or the actually scarying on another plain “Every Angel Is Terrifying” -this is where Oneohtrix Point Never alternative production pays off so well.

But don’t believe between the art, the exposition, the sound in waiting, the hits don’t just keep on coming. The four songs after the intro all have potential, of course using Oneohtrix Point Never and Swedish House Mafia AND Max Martin is overkill, better “Take My Breathe”‘s house music than the soft focus intro to the album (kudos to record label Armada owner Kevin Duane on “Sacrifice”).

So, yeah, it’s here, it is gonna be here the greater percent of the year and it is very, very good.

Grade: A-

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